Written by Gregg Brekke
The experience of two UCC congregations in California prompted the denomination's General Synod to urge churches in assisting public school efforts to protect children and help them understand people of other races and sexual orientation.
The congregations in Hayward and Alameda have longed worked with their local schools and their pastors accepted invitations to participate in school programs designed to end bullying and harassment. Delegates learned that frequent taunts of "You're so gay!" has led to violence and to two suicides.
Those schools and several others in California have been targeted by "traditional values" groups following programs designed to create safe schools as required by state law. An organized campaign of intimidation has been directed at schools that have sought to protect children of gay and lesbian parents and children whose parents are immigrants or from a different country of origin.
The General Synod action, approved by an overwhelming majority after extensive debate, encourages public schools to develop programs that help to keep all children safe, and for churches to assist in appropriate ways. The resolution includes recommendations to local churches, Conferences and to national ministries.
The educational programs are to embrace students of all races, ethnic origins, genders, faiths, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, socio-economic classes, countries of origin, and their families.
During the debate Synod delegates listened to appeals that the California churches not expect nationwide support for programs designed to protect children of gay or lesbian parents, or that sexual orientation and gender identities be separated from racial and ethnic diversity. Attempts to modify the resolution failed.
The two UCC pastors have resisted the pressures that included personal threats and legal actions. Both Eden UCC in Hayward, Calif., and First Congregational UCC of Alameda, Calif., have supported their pastors, the Rev. Arlene Nehring and the Rev. Laura Rose. Their efforts have also been supported by their Conference Minister, the Rev. Mary Susan Gast.